Another 500 Victory Is Within Penske’s Power

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, May 23 2018

Team Penske driver Simon Pagenaud says Chevy power could be the difference for his team at Indy on Sunday. (INDYCAR photo)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Roger Penske’s expectations of his open-wheel drivers are twofold – win the Indianapolis 500 and a championship – and teammates Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud believe they have a good shot at the former this weekend.

The two IndyCar champions Tuesday pointed to Chevrolet’s development during the past year as the key reason.

“We have the horsepower and that makes a big, big difference,” Pagenaud, the 2016 IndyCar champion, said during a media lunch. “It’s such a speed factory there (Indianapolis Motor Speedway). You’re flat out and any horsepower you have over the competition is going to be a big advantage. This year, we know we have the upper end and that translates into better results.”

Through the decades, Team Penske and the Brickyard have become synonymous. Penske’s entries have won the coveted Memorial Day weekend classic 16 times, the last coming in 2015 with Juan Pablo Montoya. In addition to Pagenaud and Newgarden, Penske’s lineup this year includes Helio Castroneves and Will Power. Castroneves is seeking his fourth Indy 500 victory, his third coming in 2009. His teammates have yet to claim the Borg-Warner trophy and drink the traditional milk in victory lane.  

 “You want to go into the race feeling like you have the right ammo to do the job,” said Newgarden, the sport’s current champion. “It’s a hard race. You can win it in so many

Josef Newgarden will be looking for his first 500 victory. (Photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

ways and lose it in so many others. You just have to put yourself in position at the end and, hopefully, it works out. If it’s all four of us (in contention for the win at the end), then that’s even better. At the end of the day, you want a team car to win. We say that, but we mean it. I think Roger instills that in us.”

In addition to horsepower, the drivers agree that experience pays dividends at the 2.5-mile track that can switch from friend to foe in a split second.

“When you have experience in an Indy Car I think it really makes you make better decisions throughout the month (of May),” said Newgarden, who qualified fourth. “Indy is about timing. You don’t want to peak early, you don’t want to peak in the middle. You want to peak when it counts. You want to peak at the right point in qualifying. You want to peak at the right point in the race. Understanding how to ride the highs and lows and peak at the right moment is really hard to do and experience helps you get better at that.”

Pagenaud, who qualified second, noted that for him Indy had been “very calm, steady”, a “pretty comfortable month” so far. A comfort with IMS, however, isn’t something Pagenaud’s father possesses. Even though he saw his son win the 2014 Grand Pix of Indianapolis, he refuses to return to the track.

“He hates it,” the Frenchman said about his father’s attitude toward the speedway. “He’s very uncomfortable with the speed and the danger that goes with it. He gets up at three in the morning (in France) to watch the race, but he just doesn’t enjoy being there. He’s too worried.”

Pagenaud’s mother will attend the event; however, he won’t see his father until the June 9 IndyCar race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Even though all of Penske’s entries qualified in the top eight this year with two on the front row, there will be no team orders once the race begins as one often sees in Formula One.

“Roger expects us to race the same as usual – race hard, race clean and may the best win,” Pagenaud said. “Obviously, we know how far to take it and get away with it. Right now we are working very well together to try to get the best cars we can. Once the race starts we race each other. I think we are all competitive and we’re very honest about it – may the best win. If you’re not the best, then it sucks. I want to be the best.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, May 23 2018
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